Lately I've been obsessed with faces. At first I couldn't quite put my finger on it, what it was that was drawing me to stare at, photograph and draw face after face after face. I don't think that it's the half-crooked smiles that some people have, or the shiny depths of their eyes. It is not the colour or quality of their skin, nor is it crinkles that play out from their lashes. Rather it is the spaces between all that, the smooth apples of cheeks and the hills and mountains created by wrinkles and laugh lines. I like to watch the rise and fall of an elderly face as it contemplates something profound. I like to see the sun glint off of the reddened cheeks of a young one at play. Most beautifully, I think is the depth of character that one can surmise by studying these landscapes as they evolve and change with every passing emotion.
I've had a chance to visit a local ghetto in Colombo. The thing that struck me most was how stunning the faces were. Everywhere I looked, beautiful, contented smiles shone back at me. These are people who live in 4ft x 4ft shacks, with very little food or amenities. There is garbage everywhere. Yet somehow the happiness they feel is infectious and I spent the whole day laughing and sharing and loving.
In my last visit to Toronto, the one thing that struck me was how angry everyone was. People walked around muttering to themselves, ready to engage in any confrontation they could. Snarls, frowns and furrowed brows followed me everywhere I went. I kept asking myself "What do these people have to be so angry about?" Here, in Sri Lanka I have met some of the happiest people in my life. And most of them are incredibly impoverished. Struggling along, doing everything they can to make ends meet.
I can't be sure, but I think that the difference is community. In Sri Lanka, community is king. Especially in these poorer areas, people all rely on one another to help in times of need. In the slum, everybody was out socializing at every hour of the day. All children were accepted in any house, all were known by their first and last names. There was an intricate web of support that was more complex than anything I could imagine. Having that, being a part of that, one must feel so safe. So loved.